COVID-19

Apple, Google plan to release contact-tracing tool this week

Jack Stewart Apr 28, 2020
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The Australian government's contact tracing app, COVIDSafe. Apple and Google worked together on their own tech-based solution. Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
COVID-19

Apple, Google plan to release contact-tracing tool this week

Jack Stewart Apr 28, 2020
The Australian government's contact tracing app, COVIDSafe. Apple and Google worked together on their own tech-based solution. Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The term “contact tracing” is being used a lot at the moment. It’s a way to notify us if we’ve been in contact with a person infected with COVID-19. Health authorities say it’s crucial as part of plans to reopen businesses and the economy. 

Technology can help with this. Apple and Google are set to release a smartphone tool this week. Traditional contact tracing involves a human tracker questioning someone who tests positive about who they’ve been near, and then trying to reach those people to warn them to isolate. 

Tina White, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Stanford University, is with the group Covid Watch, which helped develop the underlying technology to allow smartphones to track other phones around them privately — and do contact tracing.

“What this sort of app will do is it will give you an anonymous notification instead that you have been exposed, [and] here are the next steps,” White said.

Apple and Google, traditionally competitors when it comes to their iPhones and Android phones, worked together on the system, which uses Bluetooth signals.

Users will have to download an app from their local public health authority to opt in.

Pam Dixon, founder and executive director of the World Privacy Forum, wants assurances that any data will be deleted once this pandemic is over. 

“We need to hear that this is a temporary system just to deal with the crisis and then it goes away,” Dixon said.

She’s also watching to see if the use of these types of trackers becomes mandatory to enter restaurants or board planes, for example, which she says would raise extra concerns.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What do vaccines mean for economic recovery?

COVID-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon, according to expert witnesses who testified at a recent hearing held by the Joint Economic Committee. Put simply, we can’t eradicate the virus because it infects other species, and there will also be folks who choose not to get the vaccine or don’t mount an immune response, according to Dr. Céline Gounder at NYU School of Medicine & Bellevue Hospital. “That means we can’t only rely on vaccination,” Gounder said. She said the four phases of recovering from the pandemic are ending the emergency, relaxing mitigation measures, getting to herd immunity and having long-term control.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

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